D.C. Unions Assail Plan To Tie Pay to Student Achievement
District of Columbia union leaders said last week that they will oppose a plan by the city schools superintendent to tie the evaluations of teachers and principals to student achievement.
Superintendent Franklin L. Smith, who is still drafting the proposal, said he wants to provide educators with rewards and sanctions that will focus their attention on student performance.
"I want to get to the point where teaching is synonymous with learning," Mr. Smith said. "To me, you're not teaching if no one is learning."
The superintendent is calling for the school system to set new criteria for evaluating teachers and principals that would take into account such indicators as standardized test scores, student attendance, dropout rates, and parent involvement. The goal, he said, should be a year's gain for every year a student is in school.
Schools that posted gains above that mark, he suggested, might receive bonus money to use for salary increases or equipment. And teachers who received poor evaluations could be put on probation, offered professional assistance, or dismissed.
Under Mr. Smith's new contract with the school district, part of his own pay is to be based on student performance.
The presidents of the unions that represent teachers and principals said that any changes in evaluations should be subject to collective bargaining.
"I don't have any problem with teachers being held accountable if schools are free of student-discipline problems and have updated curriculum, equipment, and supplies," said Barbara A. Bullock, the president of the Washington Teachers Union. Most schools in the city do not have such conditions, she said.
Frank Bolden, the president of the Council of School Officers, said principals spend most of their time dealing with disruptive students and should not be held responsible for student achievement.
Superintendent Smith said that he is well aware of the problems students may have outside the classroom but that he believes schools must take the lead in collaborating with social-service agencies to help children.
Mr. Smith disputed union leaders' assertions that the standards for evaluating teachers and principals must be bargained over. The district can set evaluation standards, he said, and must negotiate only the ratings scale and format used in evaluations.
The board of education must approve the change in evaluations, which Mr. Smith said he hoped to have in place by the end of the school year.
Valencia Mohammed, a school board member, said last week that although she supports the concept, making such a change in the evaluation system will require close collaboration with employees. She said Mr. Smith was moving too rapidly and lacked the support of the system's "demoralized" teaching staff. "We've got so many things rolling around now, it's just impossible to get a fix on it," she said.